Chicken Casserole

Here is an awesome fact about my family: My mom was born the exact day Marty McFly goes back to in Back to the Future, and I was born on the exact day that he returns to the present. This is what that should tell you about me and my mom: my mom was 30 when I was born, our birthdays are a week apart (and coming up soon!), and we are awesome.

When I realised that yesterday was 'Back to the Future Day,' the date in Back to the Future II that Marty arrives at when he jumps into the future, I was stoked to be able to go see the movie in a real theatre. We got dinner at a local American restaurant with some friends and caught a late showing of the movie, and when we walked home at 11:30 last night, it was so mild I didn't even zip up my coat. I was so excited that we were having a mild day with no wind at all, that I drastically underdressed for work today, was freezing all day, and spent most of my waking hours pining for something as cosy and warming as this casserole was when I made it last week.

Originally I was putting off making this casserole until it got closer to the new year, because the recipe card that it's on reads 'here are a couple of recipes you will want to clip and save to start 1989 out right,' and I thought it was hilarious that the date is almost exactly 27 years in the past... but then, as often happens, I got hungry, and so we made the chicken casserole for dinner last week. Eleanor had left some pencilled in notes on this one because she apparently only ever made it as a half-recipe, so I followed her lead and cut the whole thing in half (not least because I don't have a single piece of crockery that could hold 2 entire chickens, even if they are cut up).*

Let's be honest: casseroles aren't a cool dish. They're not cool to make, they're definitely not cool to like, and they're even too uncool to serve to a dinner guest. But I still like them, especially ones like this that are hearty and warm, without leaving you feeling as though you just ate a brick after you finish your meal. And the older I get, the more I realise the benefits of a good casserole: All the dishes are washed before you sit down to eat! There're always leftovers! Said leftovers reheat like a charm! Bone-in chicken is so much cheaper than cutlets! The house smells amazing!

We ate it for dinner one night and then were both excited to reheat it the next evening. It's an easy dish to match with any vegetable that's in season, so we had it with a fig-and-green salad. It would go just as perfectly with a tray of roasted veggies, which would be easy to pop into the oven during the last half-hour of cooking.

*I laughed when I realised she had written the halved measurements next to every single ingredient, even the obvious ones like '1 can of soup,' where she crossed out the one and wrote '½' in the margin. I was mocking Eleanor in my head for this, until I remembered how many times I've cut a recipe in half mentally and forgotten to reduce one ingredient, ruining the entire meal. Clearly she was onto something. The version below is cut in half; it could easily and accurately be doubled to serve twice as many... if you have a dish big enough to cook it.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. It's delicious, it's warm, it's super easy, and if you're in for a sudden burst of Arctic weather like we were today, it should already be in your oven by now.

I made judson buy this le creuset for me last time we were in the US because it's a colour that's not sold in britain and then we had to carry it home on a plane and i regret nothing!

I made judson buy this le creuset for me last time we were in the US because it's a colour that's not sold in britain and then we had to carry it home on a plane and i regret nothing!

The recipe:

Chicken Casserole

the directions:

Preheat oven to 160C/325F and grease a large roasting pan.
Mix together can of soup, milk, and rice and pour into the roasting pan.
Lay chicken on top of rice mixture, then sprinkle the dry soup mix over the entire dish, pressing in a bit where necessary.
Cover and bake for 2 hours.
Uncover the dish and bake for an additional 15 minutes to allow it to brown on top.

Serves 4 heartily, or 6 petitely with side dishes.

the ingredients:

1 can cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
1 ¼ cans milk
1 cup long-grain rice (we used a mixture of basmati and wild rice)
1 chicken, cut up and rubbed liberally with salt and pepper
1 package dry onion soup mix (if you live in the US where you can get Lipton, use it and pour some out for me. I haven't yet found a place that sells it over here, and I do miss cooking with it so much!)